Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

William Brewer (or Brower) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Among the earliest participants in the Brewer DNA Project are three cases in which the results of Y-DNA tests on the participants demonstrate that they are certain descendants of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus, Long Island. The participants had tested some years ago, and the effort to find the connection to other families descended from Adam Brouwer stalled. Since that time more source information, in the form of databases and scanned records found primarily at Family Search and, have become accessible from home. We'll take the time to revisit these three cases and see if any new evidence that might help us connect these lines back to Adam Brouwer can be found. In addition we'll make an effort to pull together as many descendants as possible and bring those lines up to at least to the early 1900s. The first case to look at is that of William Brewer of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 2007, a descendant of Joseph Brower and Elizabeth McGregor, joined the Brewer DNA Project. Since that time the participant has upgraded his test to the 67 marker level (which is something I would encourage all other participants to do as well). The test results match closely to other participants who are descendants of Adam Brouwer. In addition, the participant had his haplogroup confirmed through testing and the results tell us that he belongs to haplogroup E1b1b1a, which now has the new shorthand name of E-M78. Results can be viewed at both the Adam Brouwer Group DNA Results Page found at the Brouwer Genealogy Database website, and at the Y-DNA Results page at the Brewer DNA Project site at Family Tree DNA. The kit number for the descendant is N46637.

With complete confidence we can trace the participant's direct paternal line back to Joseph Brower who was born in September 1828 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and died 3 May 1908 in Birmingham, Alabama. The direct ancestry is online in chart form at the BGD website. Links from each individual in the chart will lead to a profile which includes source citations which will not be repeated here.

In 1850, on the U.S. Federal census, Joseph Brower is found recorded as Joseph Brewer, in the household of William Brewer, in the 2nd Ward of Southwark, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Southwark, which was the oldest English settlement in Pennsylvania, was incorporated into the City of Philadelphia in 1854. A handicap of the 1850 census is the fact that relationships between persons found in a particular household is not stated specifically. The terms, "Head," "Wife," "Son," etc. are not found on the 1850 census returns. In a strict sense we cannot state that Joseph is a son of William Brewer simply because he is found in William's household in 1850. Fortunately, during the past few years, death certificates (or at least indexes to them) for the state of Alabama have been made available online. Joseph's death certificate records his father as William Brower. The certificate records his mother as "Mrs. William Brower."

The 1850 census record for the household of William Brewer gives his age as 73, and place of birth as New Jersey. This would place his year of birth as about 1777, but I have the impression that his age was overstated and is incorrect on the 1850 census record. Here is an image of the 1850 census sheet (downloaded from It is best viewed when downloaded to your own computer and then enlarged.

William Brewer, 1850 Southwark PA (NARA, downloaded from
In the above census sheet, William's occupation is not entirely clear, and I can decipher it only as "C?aterman." I'm inclined to believe he was a cartman, or carter, in the city. Below William, is Ann Brewer, who although not stated as such, and until proven otherwise, I will assume to be his wife. Her age is not clear, but I read it as "50," and would suggest comparing it to the age written in for Elizabeth Prikett, who appears six lines below Ann. The Joseph in this household is recorded with the age of "12," which I believe must be an error for 22. Joseph's occupation is "Store Keeper," and I don't believe a 12 year old boy would have such an occupation. Also in the household are William Brewer, age 23, a cabinet maker; Margaret Brewer, age given as 19, and Hannah Brewer, age given as 15. The assumption, based on what is known now, is that William, Margaret, Hannah and Joseph, are all children of William and Ann Brewer.

The reason for questioning William's stated age on the 1850 census as 73 years, is that in 1840, William Bruer, is found in the 5th Ward of Southwark, with a household of 2 males age 10-15, 1 male age 20-30, 1 male 40-50, 2 females 5-10, 2 females 15-20, and 1 female 40-50. William, as head of the household, would most certainly be the male aged 40-50, therefore placing his year of birth between 1790 and 1800 (and not about 1777 as implied on the 1850 census). The description of the family also leaves open the likelihood that William had other children besides those who are found on the 1850 census.

Wm Bruer, 1840 Southwark PA (NARA, image downloaded from
In 1830, William Brewer is enumerated at East Southwark, with a household of 2 males under 5, 1 male 30-40, 1 female under 5, 2 females 5-10, 1 female 20-30. This age range would again place William's birth as between 1790 and 1800. The oldest female, assumed to be his wife, would have been born between 1800 and 1810. The 1850 census gives Ann's age as 50 (if we've read the return correctly), so born about 1800, while the 1840 census gave the age of the oldest female as 40-50, so born between 1790 and 1800.

Wm Brewer 1830 East Southwark PA (NARA, image downloaded from
In 1820, William Brewer can be found at Southwark, Philadelphia County, with a household of 1 male 16-26, 1 female under age 10, and 1 female 16-26. This would indicate that both William, and his wife, were born between 1794 and 1804.

William Brewer, 1820 Southwark PA (NARA, image downloaded from
The family of William Brewer, as described in the 1820 census record, is certainly a young family, and no person named William Brewer is found as a head of household in Philadelphia County in 1810. A search of the 1810 census (using finds, as heads of households in Philadelphia County, an Elizabeth Brower, who's household includes a male aged 16-25 (born between 1785 and 1794) and an Ephrem (Ephraim) Brower, who's household includes a male aged 10-15 (1795-1800). Both Elizabeth and Ephrem are enumerated at Northern Liberties, which later was also incorporated into the City of Philadelphia. There is also a George Brewer, who's household includes a male aged 10-15 (1795-1800) and he to is found in Northern Liberties.

Also of interest:
- A William Brower was listed as a member of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in 1822.
- The Philadelphia Death Certificate Index ( includes a William Brewer who died 23 December 1867, age 73, which places his birth at about 1794. He was buried at the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Cemetery on 26 December 1867, and had resided at 1725 Otsego Street in the City's First Ward. I have not yet located our William Brewer/Brower on the 1860 U.S. census.
- The same Death Certificate Index includes Ann Brewer who died 17 May 1858, age 60, therefore born about 1798. She was buried in the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Cemetery on 22 May 1858. Her residence is not given. These early "death certs" were apparently, in actuality burial records obtained from the various cemeteries. Details, such as names of parents are not recorded (unless the deceased was a minor).

Although we know, from the Y-DNA test results of a descendant that William Brewer was a descendant of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus, Long Island, we still do not have any firm evidence that would complete William's line back to Adam Brouwer. The three heads of households found in 1810 in Philadelphia County, mentioned above, should be explored further. In the past I have tentatively stated that William could be a descendant of either Hendrick Brouwer, baptized in 1699 (son of Adam Brouwer and Marretje Hendricks) and who is later found in Somerset County, New Jersey where is own children were baptized, or Samuel Brouwer, baptized in 1706 (son of Willem Brouwer and Marthe Boulton) who also is likely found in Somerset County, New Jersey in the mid-1700s. This "guess" as to William's ancestry, is based simply on the fact that Somerset Co., New Jersey is geographically close to Philadelphia, and we do know that many Somerset County families did migrate into nearby Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In addition, the given name, William, could be found among descendants of Samuel Brouwer, who's father was named William. But, this reasoning is weak, and since this guess as to where William belongs was made, a new piece of information has surfaced.

As we all know, Philadelphia was founded by Quakers, and during the colonial period it served as the center (for lack of a better word) of Quaker activity in the northeast. We have a record from the Shrewsbury, New Jersey Monthly Meeting, dated 4 February 1788, in which George Brewer, "a youth" was placed in the care of Samuel Clark, of Philadelphia (Watring, Anna Miller. Early Church Records of Monmouth County, New Jersey. n.p.: Colonial Roots, 2004, page 95). On 7 January 1788, Lydia Brewer, at the Shrewsbury Meeting, had requested a certificate (for transfer from Shrewsbury to Philadelphia) for her son George who had been placed with Samuel Clark. This George Brewer, being a minor in 1788, would have likely been born between 1770 and 1780. His parents were George Brewer, born 20 May 1730 at Shrewsbury, and Lydia Clark, who were married on 25 Jan 1764. As mentioned above, a George Brewer is found in 1810 at Northern Liberties. He was aged 26-44, so born between 1764 and 1784. This lead needs to be explored further, but for now, would be the most promising possibility for linking William Brewer/Brower to the family of Adam Brouwer. The elder George Brewer, b. 1730, was a son of Adam Brewer and his first wife, Deborah Allen, of Shrewsbury. Adam Brewer is in turn, believed to be the son of Jacob Brouwer and Annatje Bogardus, baptized in 1696, and is a grandson of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus. The given named, William, is found among the descendants of Adam Brewer of Shrewsbury. The family and ancestry of Lydia Clark has not yet been researched.

The descendants of William Brewer, which include a lead to the possible identity of Ann (presumed to be the wife of William Brewer) will be considered in a follow up post.

For a chronology of the political subdivisions of the County of Philadelphia from 1683 to 1854, see this page at the City of Philadelphia website.

1 comment:

  1. In 1758 Hannah Brower married Gabriel Philipps (spelt Phillips ever after) at Tohickon Union Church, Bucks Co PA. They named the first-born son Peter so it could be that she was the daughter of a Peter Brower (Brouwer?), Even tho they were married in a Union church i believe Hannah may have been a Quaker, as was Gabriel. Please tell me anything you might know about Hannah's ancestry. Thanks. D. Phillips


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